Plants acclimate their photosynthetic capacity in response to changing environmental conditions. In Arabidopsis thaliana, photosynthetic acclimation to cold requires the accumulation of the organic acid fumarate, catalysed by a cytosolic fumarase FUM2, however the role of this is currently unclear. In this study, we use an integrated experimental and modelling approach to examine the role of FUM2 and fumarate across the physiological temperature range. Using physiological and biochemical analyses, we demonstrate that FUM2 is necessary for acclimation not only to low temperatures, as previously shown, but also to increased temperature. To understand the role of FUM2 activity, we have adapted a reliability engineering technique, Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), to apply it to a biological problem. This allows us to formalize a rigorous approach for ranking metabolites according to the potential risk they pose to the metabolic system. FMEA identifies fumarate as a low-risk metabolite. Its precursor, malate, is shown to be high-risk and liable to cause system instability. We conclude that the role of cytosolic fumarase, FUM2, is to provide a fail-safe, maintaining system stability under changing environmental conditions.
Photosynthesis is especially sensitive to environmental conditions and the composition of the photosynthetic apparatus can be modulated in response to environmental change, a process termed photosynthetic acclimation. Previously, we identified a role for a cytosolic fumarase, FUM2 in acclimation to low temperature in Arabidopsis thaliana. Mutant lines lacking FUM2 were unable to acclimate their photosynthetic apparatus to cold. Here, using gas exchange measurements and metabolite assays of acclimating and non-acclimating plants, we show that acclimation to low temperature results in a change in the distribution of photosynthetically fixed carbon to different storage pools during the day. Proteomic analysis of wild-type Col-0 Arabidopsis and of a fum2 mutant which was unable to acclimate to cold indicates that extensive changes occurring in response to cold are affected in the mutant. Metabolic and proteomic data were used to parameterise metabolic models. Using an approach called flux sampling, we show how the relative export of triose phosphate and 3-phsphoglycerate provides a signal of the chloroplast redox state that could underly photosynthetic acclimation to cold.
Chloroplasts, the site of the primary reactions of photosynthesis, are organelles capable of independent protein synthesis, but which depend on the nucleus for most polypeptides. The process of photosynthesis is especially sensitive to environmental conditions and the composition of the photosynthetic apparatus can be modulated in response to environmental change. This acclimation process requires close communication between chloroplast and nucleus. Here we present evidence that the form in which carbon is exported from the chloroplast encodes information about the metabolic status of the photosynthetic apparatus which in turn controls photosynthetic acclimation.